The Horse Whispering

June 07, 1998

So I was walking home from that new Robert Redford movie when I
heard somebody in the alley go, "Hey, buddy."

It was pitch-black.

Who's in there? I said, loudly.

"Real Quiet," said a voice.

Who's in there? I whispered.

"No, you moron! Real Quiet, the horse! And lemme tell you, pal,
I ain't staying real quiet anymore."

What, you're changing your name?

"No, you mule! I can't stay real quiet anymore because I'm so
hacked off!"

Come out into the light where I can see you.

"No chance. I'm breaking training. Lemme ask you something: What
do they want me to do?"

Please?

"I go to the Kentucky Derby, I win in a thriller. I go to the
Preakness, I'm six wide on the final turn, and I still blow
everybody away. On Saturday, I can become the first horse in 20
years to win the Triple damn Crown, and people are riding me!"

See, those are the jockeys.

"Not the jockeys! All these turf writers! They're saying I'm a
fluke, a joke, a disgrace! The way these guys talk, I oughta be
in Tijuana, wearing a straw hat and pulling tourists around for
photos and tips! O.K., a lot of the good three-year-olds were
hurt this season. It's not like they did it playing cribbage. I
ran the same races they ran. Durability oughta count for
something, right?"

Seems to in other sports.

"I mean, I ain't Mr. Ed here!"

Well, there are certain similarities.

"They talk about my 0-6 start. They rag on my $17,000 price tag.
They say I'm ugly."

They do call you Fish, don't they, because as a yearling you
looked so narrow from straight on and your hooves turned out
like fins?

"Hey! You rent that forehead out for billboards?"

Point made.

"I mean, this guy Andrew Beyer of The Washington Post went so
far as to write, 'If a horse of this quality sweeps the Triple
Crown, then the Triple Crown is diminished.'"

You subscribe?

"Does this geek have any idea how hard it is to win one, forget
all three? I mean, you got some midget Joan Crawford beating on
you, and you got more pounds thundering next to you than an
80-percent-off sale at Big and Beautiful, and you win anyway,
and then some sniff like Beyer says you're diminishing the
Triple Crown?"

Horsepuck?

"Exactly. Hey, I don't have blinders on here. You know why these
guys are sweating me? It's because they didn't pick me to win!
Beyer didn't pick me to win the Derby or even the Preakness
until Coronado's Quest broke down. I made him look stupid! He's
got this number system everybody's supposed to buy. Well, if the
Beyer Speed Figures are so freaking swift, how come he's still
writing?"

Listen--

"It's not just the writers. The racing crowd is smacking me
because they don't like the guys I run with. My owner, Mike
Pegram, the guy that owns all the McDonalds? He's not exactly
their type because he didn't come to his money the way they
did--out of the birth canal. He had to work for his. Racing
wants people who eat arugula and speak fluent trust fund.

"My trainer, Bob Baffert, with the mop of white hair, he's not
one of them, either. He shows up at the barn at 8:30 instead of
5 a.m., and it bugs 'em because he's become the best trainer in
racing.

"All of us are kinda outcasts, and that's why, even though I'm
right on the doorstep of the Triple Crown, people act like I
oughta be in the circus."

Or a bottle of Elmer's.

"That's not funny."

Sorry.

"So, anyway, I just want all these losers to know that if I win
the Belmont on Saturday, my name goes up there with Citation and
Secretariat, and I don't give half an oat who likes it."

Can I ask you one question?

"Shoot."

Did you like the movie?

"Nah."

Why not?

"Too far-fetched."

B/W PHOTO: ROBERT BECK [Rick Reilly]

"I can become the first horse in 20 years to win the Triple damn
Crown, and people are riding me!"

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)